Police release footage of moment eagle helicopter is hit by laser strike amid warning it could cost lives

Police have released confronting footage to Newshub of the moment its eagle helicopter is hit by a powerful laser strike.

Laser attacks are on the rise in New Zealand, but pilots say their concerns are falling on deaf ears.

The footage released to Newshub by police shows a laser beam pointed straight into the cockpit of the police eagle helicopter in Auckland last year.

Once the crew recovers from the blinding flash, they use infrared cameras to pinpoint the culprit's exact location. He is later caught red-handed with the high-powered laser hiding in his pocket.

"It illuminates the whole camera when it hits the camera, so it does that to your eye," Sergeant Colin Ware of the Police Air Support Unit tells Newshub. "The whole interior of the helicopter lights up.

Police on Friday will go public with this video to highlight a concerning trend.

"In the last 17 months, we've been hit 20 times, so it's happening more than once a month," Ware says.

Some weeks are more dangerous than others. In one case, the eagle was hit every single night. But it's not just police in the firing line.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has recorded more than 1000 laser strikes on aircraft since 2015, and in 2021 there have already been 161 attacks.

"Maybe there isn't another pilot to take control and in that case, the pilot can lose control and of course inevitably that could lead to a crash," said David Harrison, deputy CEO of aviation safety at the CAA.

A law change seven years ago put restrictions on the import and possession of high-powered lasers, but the strikes keep coming.

"This is not a computer game with no consequences, this is real. You are putting people's lives at risk," Harrison says.

The United Kingdom, Switzerland and Canada have either banned powerful lasers or imposed hefty fines including prison time. The Airline Pilots' Association wants our laws to be much tougher.

"We think the Government's got to take it a lot more seriously," Andrew Ridling, president of the New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association tells Newshub.

"I think that people don't understand the amount of damage that can be caused by these devices."

Transport Minister Michael Wood told Newshub there's no silver bullet to solving the problem, but says he'll keep talking with the sector and officials on how we can drive down incidents.

No one wants it to end in disaster.

Watch the fully story above.